Interview: Strida bike designer Mark Sanders

| 28 comments

Mark Sanders, designer of the Strida Bike, has given Dezeen access to his archive of drawings, models and photographs (including his very first sketch of the bike, above). Here he tells us how the project came about:

Dezeen: Why did you first decide to design a folding bike?

MS: I am a designer and an engineer and I love to work on mechanical stuff that also has a big aesthetic side. I love the word ‘elegance’, as it has meaning in both the design and engineering worlds.

Bikes are just the perfect 'human amplifiers' and are right on this cusp between structures and design. Folding bikes make using public transport door-to-door, freeing people who are otherwise trapped into car use and helping those who need to link several transports.

Strida is pretty unique in the folding bike world due to its shape, simplicity and the fact that it can be wheeled along when folded. This makes it much easier to handle in the walking (i.e. non-riding) parts of a journey than conventional folding bikes, which get awfully heavy to carry, for example inside trains, down corridors and along platforms etc.

Dezeen: When the first one was designed, and how did it came about?

 

MS: It was my masters degree project, at London's RCA in 1985 .

I conceived and designed the original Strida at a time when several things happened in my life...

I'd just given up a well-paid job to study a Masters at London's RCA and Imperial College. I needed a major project for a year’s study to satisfy both colleges: basically the RCA had to be satisfied with the aesthetics and Imperial had to be satisfied with the mechanics.

I had a tough 25mile commute into London. I tried everything: by car the journey was slow and there was lots of congestion; by bus it was slow, congestion was still a problem and there was more than two miles extra to get to the door; by train the journey was ok, except for the last two miles to the door; by motorbike it was dangerous; and finally I tried cycling all the way, which would have been ok except it was totally knackering and nobody would sit near me when I got there!

Plus, on an even more personal note I wanted a project to help me to start my own design business: it had to be reasonably commercial.

Finally, I was highly motivated because my brother had just been killed in a stupid accident, so I wanted to make most of my time.

Having considered buying a folding bike to take on the train or bus I couldn't find one that was affordable, fun, simple and light... in short I couldn’t find one that was at all appealing.

I believe that unless an innovation is appealing, it will change few lives.

I felt that for me to design a new, simple and fun folding bike would meet all these needs.

My professor at the time however, Frank Height, didn't agree and wanted to see evidence of a good concept before letting me go ahead.

His reaction was: "bikes were designed 100 years ago… what makes you think you can do anything new and innovative?” This was a good question and another challenge. He was later hugely supportive.

At the time taking full sized bikes on crowded commuter trains and buses just did not work well. Folding bikes were in their infancy and all were heavy and complex: they were usually just 'fold in half' jobs.

'Green' was not at all mainstream and bikes (this is before mountain bikes) were either for enthusiasts or for those who couldn't afford a car.

I originally hit on the idea for a triangular frame by doing zillions of sketches and some sketch models of all the alternatives.

I needed something different and innovative for my professor. The triangle has elegance in both engineering and design terms, so I was happy.

The bike is basically 3 tubes and 3 joints. I feel lucky that they also formed such a distinctive visual statement - a triangle with wheels at its corners.

Regarding the mono-blade single-sided wheel mountings - most people’s reaction is to say “what about strength?”, but when you think that side mounted wheel axles only take a proportion of the rider’s weight and yet another bike part mounted on a monoblade (the pedal mounting) takes 100% of a rider’s load it makes sense.

 

Dezeen: When did it go on sale?

MS: The first Strida1 was sold 20 years ago, 18 months after my graduation show. Strida3, a major re-design, was launched in 2001-2.

Strida5 was launched last year in the Far East only, close to manufacturers Ming Cycle in Taiwan.

Dezeen: Where is the Strida company based?

 

MS: Up until recently, Strida company was a virtual company. The owner, Steedman Bass (a Bostonian), travelling where needed. Design was done by me in the UK, manufacture was carried out in Taiwan and distribution was world wide.

Now manufacturers Ming-cycle (one of the five biggest global bike makers, mainly OEM), own all of the IP, Strida brand etc. They also get to veto future designs, as I gave up the rights years ago.

| 28 comments

Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 11:14 pm by . See our copyright policy. Before commenting, please read our comments policy.

  • Andrew S.

    Wonderful post.
    I love to see the evolution of a product, and how the designer approaches it.

    Thanks!

  • Nuno

    Alright! A 100% industrial design post on Dezeen :)

    Great job!

  • charles

    same goes with Andrew.

    Its always a delight to see the process.

  • S. Richardson

    This posting is so hot! It is refreshing to see something so thoughtfully detailed.

    The next posting of that ridiculous ‘Add-A-Drawer’ looks, well- ridiculous by comparison.. What is that supposed to be conceptual??

    Bravo to the above dude and his bike- here’s to winning the hot girl with the red boots!

  • Maiki

    Awesome….love seeing the process as much as the final product….

  • http://www.siniz.com siniz

    lovely!

  • pop

    it is a revolution… everyone should have a strida

    i hope its not expensive!!

  • Mondi

    Sorry to be a party pooper but as lovely as the concept is and as much as I like the product, as a bike it is really not good. We have one in our office and almost everyone in our office cycles to work. We've all had a go on it and the Strida is really unstable and to be honest a bit dangerous.

    Love the article though. Nice to see some proper drawings!

    • Drew

      You must all be terrible riders. Its going to be more twitchy than your road or mountain bike because its smaller and stop comparing the strida to these bikes. Can they fold and do the things the strida does? Takes 10 minutes to get used to riding a smaller bike and its not dangerous at all unless you are a pretty hopeless cyclist.

  • http://www.felipeassadi.com pablo casals

    amazing work, congratulations, great drawings, wonderful progress
    Lets go for a ride !

  • http://www.myspace.com/joeri_h J

    I’m not a big bike freak, but this one truly turns me a bit on. Really, really nice. And also nice to see the design process. The exploding view!!!

    (Marcus, thanks for this wonderfull blog. Don’t listen to the wankers a few posts down).

  • phone

    nice post indeed- well documented. super nice product.

  • Simon

    Thanks – great write-up !!

    There is a video showing the design process on google… (search ‘ Strida ‘ on Google video) … link is HERE:
    http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-344646924407298798&q=Strida&total=119&start=0&num=100&so=0&type=search&plindex=3

    It explains how the early ones (maybe like Mondi Tried ?) followed traditional steering geometries, but had twitchy handling, but the later Mk3 & 5’s have much better handling tuned based on feedback from many new riders.

  • Simon

    Strida IS getting about !!

    Just seen it in Business Week – with some great pictures (coming of age ??)

    http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/feb2008/id2008024_854191.htm?chan=innovation_innovation+%2B+design_top+stories

  • Architecture Nowadays…

    I would like to see a similar post on something from OMA or Hadid…

  • http://vareseruotalibera.blogspot.com/ Ettore Schioppa

    Great Post. I’ve Strida in my architecture Graduation work dated 1997, and I’m really happy to discover so many things about the Strida design process. I like to ride by bicycle and I like the Ultra Light bicycle concept. I’ve fond that the traditional layout is the best, ‘would like to ride a Strida to feel if the project works good but it’s a bit too expensive. Anyway it was a completely different and new approach to the bicycle concept.

  • http://www.gizmometer.com Conrad

    Great article! I love learning about the Mark Sanders’ design process – it’s fantastic all the detail he can still provide. And I love the Strida. I learned about the Strida the week after they stopped selling them in the U.S. I went on a bit of quest to find one. I finally was able to make contact with someone at the manufacturing company, and was able to import one about a year and a half ago. I’ve ridden my orange 5.0 all over the city and I love it. It’s probably my most treasured possession.

  • http://ctlittleben.blogspot.com CTLittleBen

    Dear Sir:
    May I post the whole article to my blog?
    Thnak you!

  • SRIRAM.C

    I don’t know anything about the architecture of bike designing,automobile engineering.but in my primary classes during leasure time i used to design new models arising from my mind.sometimes i dreamt i will be a bike designer and took every one to my own world through my skills.
    Now iam walking through commercial field(b.com)it is too far to reach my dream.Onething i can do is to send u my new modelsof bike through mail.if u agrees with me for changing new trend of bikes,iwant to have a chat with u.pls reply if u r ready to become friend.bye

  • http://sprawlers.blogspot.com sprawlers

    just to respond to some criticism of the bike:

    I have one, and I find it is wonderful for its designed use: little bits of travel to and from train stations and mass transit. The excellence of this bicycle is how unobtrusive it is in crowded situations, and how quickly you can fold it, especially when fumbling for a train pass or ticket.

    I live in Philadelphia, which is beautifully matched for a bike like this: the transit network is robust, but certain neighborhoods lack easy accessibility to the network. SEPTA would see a huge increase in ridership if these bikes were popularized, but they are a little pricey for many people.

    People who look at this bike as a replacement for their road bike will be very disappointed, and they should be. It’s just not designed to do the same type of things. But used properly, the Strida is a superb instrument of urban transit.

  • Wayne Collier

    Great bike. I’ve been a fan for years: I’ve had a Strida 2, a Strida 3, and now I really love the Strida 5. It takes a few minutes to get used to the ride, but it’s great for getting around in an urban environment: on and off trains, into stores and shops, even into the movies.

  • Osvaldo Pavanelli

    I am a brazilian graphic artist and a huge fan of folding bikes. Strida is obviously a great idea as regards form and function. God only knows how difficult it is to be simple. I dont have one, I sure would love to, but I do have the feeling the rider sits too near the steering stem, I dont know how confort that is. I saw a video showing a guy riding it, and he had his hands against his knees when turning the bike a couple of times.
    I would buy it anyway, just for the pleasure of having one, but they are not sold here in Brazil.

  • JIm Bonifacio

    Hi,

    I’m a big fan of folding bikes & have a Hummer & a Dahon, seeing a Strida pass by me left me astonished! It made me inspired to design my own. being a draftsman ( here in California) , I was able to come up with a unique & good one that I believe is very compact & competetive in the market. I am currently working on the design patent.

    Do you know how to contact a possible sponsor or an upcoming folding bike design competiiton this 2009?

    Thanks so much.

    JIm

  • http://none Andrew

    I have a Strida i bought from a good friend very cheaply and i believe it is a mark one {how can i find out}
    I found the first ride wobbly for approx three seconds then i remembered how to ride a bike{been out of the saddle for ten years or more}
    No other design of folding bicycle comes even close to the Strida for me although i have never ridden any other and it feels as though anyone could ride the bike all day long so long as they are not in a hurry which is not slow but not mountain bike eighteen gears speed as i only have the one gear.
    Strida speed i am saying.
    Love the site.Well done.
    andrew

  • http://tandemcyclesforsale.com/ tandem cycles for sale

    seems its not a natural design for bike, but i like it when the bike can even fold like it can carry on car or even traveling without even wondering the space you will used in order to put it on your car.

  • Eric

    I have a Strida 5 and love it for fun and short commutes. My regular daily commute is on a Dahon speed Pro with a Dahon Matrix as a biff and bash on single tracks, of course the Road bike sits ready for really serious distance. I road 111Km on the Tour Down Under challenge on the Strida 5 (with a top hat) to raise funds for a charity – it wasnt too hard and it sure was fun.
    Love to know why the Strida Duo (2 Speed) uses the schlumf 1:1.66 planetary rather than the 1:2.5 ratio. The wider ratio would give real climbing gears if you started at say 33.3 Gear Inches you would have a good top ratio at 83.3 Gear Inches. Single speed Stria 5 is 56 Gear Inches by comparison.
    PS I use Maxxis Hookworm 16X1.9 100PSI tyre on my Strida they do make an improvement but required extension on the magnetic catch.

    Thanks
    Eric

  • Luiz Vidal Gomes

    Excelent! Wonderful post. I would like to congratulate the people who made this post, but also the Design Group from the Open University, specially in the name of Dr Robin Roy, who was one of the first industrial design researchers using such fantastic didactics material to teach creativity. Brilliant.

    Excelente! maravilha de publicação eletrônica. Gostaria de agradecer ao grupo de pessoas que publicou este material, mas também o Grupo de Desenhadores da Open University, especialmente o nome do Dr Robin Roy, aquele que foi um dos pioneiros pesquisadores em Desenho industrial a usar esse fantástico material didático para o ensino de criatividade. Brilhante!

  • Lomonosov

    Presenting all steps of sketch drawings which were performed by Mark Sanders to create Strida has the highest value, displaing process of design, and the incentive puts Dezeen ahead of many magasines.
    Althouth, Strida's enlarged frame did not achieve contracting of the weight. Its exsotic appearance served only as a means for their owners to make statement : I am not like othser.